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What Work of Art Challenged You? Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 417

Essay

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

There is a single work of art that surprised, unsettled and challenged me: the depiction of Hades painted on the ceiling of the Doumo in Florence, Italy. Magnificent art and architecture are to be found on virtually every street of Florence, yet the Duomo somehow stands alone, still inspiring the reverence it was created to instill in the citizens hundreds of years past. Master craftsmen and true artists labored for decades to render this monumental achievement; a thrill of anticipation overtakes you, and you step up your pace on the Ponte Vecchio as you near it.

Inside, the stairs to the top of the Duomo are many and steep, and it is emphatically not an effort for the faint of heart. You are obliged to turn to the side, to allow people descending to get by, and even this courtesy carries a foreboding; you see in their faces the awe of what they have just viewed.  Then you are, finally, there, and what breath you had left is stolen by the sight of this art. It is a terrible beauty, in every sense of the phrase.

No manifestation of damnation the mind of man has yet conjured is missing. Bodies writhe in unspeakable agony from a horrific variety of tortures, yet there is as well a sense that the hell is independent of these barbaric means. This is intense suffering born from within, from doomed regret and flagrant sin, and it wields an impact far more stunning than any literal portrayal of a painfully shackled body.

You stay and you stare, transfixed by the majesty and scope of the work, and all that it represents comes to you as well. What great Florentine prince or Medici sponsored the artist? How fiercely did the church authorities demand that this Hell eclipse whatever Hell the citizen may have thought he knew? You feel the living process, somehow, from so long ago. You feel the work in progress and see the eyes of the artist as an inspiration for more redemptive power came to him, in a fresh monster or vile torture device. You can see an archbishop behind him, saying, More.

The mural is not merely Hell. Beautifully executed with exquisite detail and color, it is an immensely powerful and very much living statement of man’s relentless conflict with himself and with God. It is truly great art, in that it amazes, stupefies, and humble.

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